Local legend insists mermaids live at Bassin Bleu. If they have indeed found it, I can’t imagine why they would go elsewhere.
How to get to Bassin Bleu
Bassin Bleu is a short drive outside from Jacmel. We had a van, but if you’re traveling solo, your accommodation should be able to arrange transport and a guide for you. To get to the pools, we had to drive through the shallow Jacmel River (yes, you read that right), past mothers doing laundry and people washing their trucks, then made the steep ascent up the mountains surrounding the city.
Continuing onward to the parking lot in the village of Grand Fond, where our guide Antoine picked up some friends to be guides and “rope guys” for our group, and we headed off to the pools.
Hiking up to Bassin Bleu
The trail is an easy climb through mostly covered forest. Rocky in parts, you’ll want to wear sneakers or sturdy trail shoes.
Bassin Bleu is a series of waterfalls and pools which descend the mountain, sending cool, crystal-blue water over rocks smoothed by centuries of water flowing over them. It is quiet and simply must be seen to be believed. It’s so beautiful, I almost don’t want to share it, keeping its access restricted to those lucky enough to hear about it through word of mouth or otherwise.
This is, of course, ridiculous. Bassin Bleu is one of the best-known tourist destinations in the country and the premiere destination in Jacmel (after, or maybe tied with, Jacmel’s legendary Kanaval.
Our group started up a narrow trail along farmers’ plots and small settlements until we reached the first pool, Bassin Cheval. On this day, there were people washing and children playing in the shallow, slow-moving water. Pretty, to be sure, but bigger things lie ahead for us.
Onward! Up the hill and some rock stairs past the small and shaded Bassin Yes, to the second pool, Bassin Palmiste, where there is ample seating for a picnic and plenty of space to relax and swim in the slightly deeper pool.
An adventurous descent
Reaching the highest pool for swimming requires one last ascent up a narrow rock staircase and when you get to the top, you realize why you needed rope guys.
Shoes discarded, bags handed off, and a short descent down a rock face with “steps” worn into it using the heavy ropes carried up the mountain by our guide and his pals.
It’s an easy descent, only 3 metres at most and heavily supervised, but is a thrilling introduction to Bassin Clair, the big finish, all the same. You feel like you’re going somewhere you shouldn’t be. A secret.
Again, this is ridiculous. Thousands upon thousands of people have been there. Our guides had been going there their entire lives, scrambling over the rocks and diving from the top of the waterfall into the pool below.
A perfect swim at Bassin Bleu
At least for today, it’s our secret, as we’re the only ones there. I stood for a minute and just looked around, taking in the high rock walls and the turquoise blue water you definitely don’t find in Canada. I took a couple of deep breaths, and eased myself into it. Heaven.
There’s a large rock not far from shore which is suitable for staging photo shoots as well as jumps and shallow dives. Between this rock and far right edge of the pool, there is a short wall of rock under the water where you can sit, submerged to the neck, and dangle your feet into the nothingness below.
The swimming is easy, with lots of little nooks and crannies to explore. I have no idea how deep it is, only that I couldn’t touch bottom in most parts. This is not terribly helpful, as I’m a staggering 5’3”/160cm.
For sensible reasons – we didn’t know the depth of the pool and had only been there for an hour – we were expressly prohibited from diving from the top and were only allowed to jump feet first from the 1½-2 metre first stage of the waterfall, which was, in essence, jumping through the waterfall into the pool below.
Our rope guys, who have been visiting the area since childhood, showed us how it was done by climbing up to the top and diving into Bassin Clair with the confidence and grace of an Olympic 10-metre platform diver.
I could have stayed forever, but it was eventually time to move on. Instead of climbing back up the rock face – an activity better-suited for those who want to show off their upper-body strength – we were given the option of jumping into the next pool, Bassin Palmiste, and swimming to back to the picnic area we passed on the way in.
Ridiculous travel injury = worth it
My jump into the pool possessed the grace of someone who visits an Olympic diving centre and accidentally falls in. My flawless jump was accompanied by terrible nose-plugging technique, punching myself in the eye socket when I hit the water.
This event is noteworthy for two reasons: 1) it’s another entry in my catalogue of ridiculous injuries; and, 2) it was the first black eye in my life. WORTH IT.
Our rope guys beat us back to the picnic area handily and were waiting with our shoes and bags. They also greeted us with freshly-cut coconuts to drink and scoop out the fresh, sweet coconut meat. Back down the hill, back across the river, and back to Jacmel, refreshed and ready for our next Haitian adventure.
This section leans heavily on Paul Clammer’s Bradt Haiti Guide for the proper names of places and things. If you’re thinking of visiting Haiti, whether for work or leisure, it is essential reading. Paul is working on a second edition, be sure to check his Facebook page for updates. I don’t get paid to promote this book in the least, it’s just really, really good.
All about my trip to Haiti
For more about my G Adventures trip to Haiti, check out my Haiti travel section:
If you’re extra curious, explore my detailed Google Map of everywhere I visited in Haiti:
If you enjoyed this post, please take a moment to leave some feedback in the comment section. If you really, really enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to the blog to receive notifications for new content or follow my blog with Bloglovin. I share travel news on Twitter at @bitesizedtravel, pictures of travel, food, craft beer, and cats on Instagram, and I hide from Facebook. Okay, I don’t.